A debate was held at a Rosh Hashana dinner party I attended. If I were the brother of the Unabomber, I proffered, I wouldn’t turn him in. I would not sell him out to the FBI even knowing that he is a mass murderer and likely to kill again. Like the brother in Bruce’s "State Trooper," at most, I’d chase him across the border and watch his taillights disappear. Practically everyone around the table responded that it’s immoral to let a murderer go free. And they’re correct. Yet to betray a brother… perhaps it’s because I’m an only child, but I’d actually like to believe I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t disagree if someone pointed to this as a character flaw.

So I sympathize with the agonizing choice made by these marines:

In August, a former Marine sergeant charged in the killing of four Iraqi prisoners was acquitted in federal court — in large part because two Marine sergeants refused to provide key testimony against him.

Now the two sergeants, who are charged in the same case in military court, are refusing to testify against each other at their own courts-martial.

I’m tied in knots on this one. The outcome — a murder never brought to justice — is obviously unacceptable. But could you accept the means to its redress? Could you testify against someone you shared a bond with? If it was you, and you knew your testimony would seal your buddy’s fate — even on the easy-case assumption that you knew him to be a murderer — could you do it?

Also, check out this paragraph:

But Paul Hackett, one of Weemer’s attorneys, told Sanzi that it is unlikely that Weemer or Nelson would ever testify because they fear such testimony could lead federal prosecutors to charge them in federal court once they leave the Marine Corps.

Is that the same Paul Hackett who ran for that Ohio Congressional seat in 2005?

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman